What’s the Weather Like on Your World?

I don’t know whether anyone reading this remembers it, but there used to be a popular song titled “Two Different Worlds.” Clearly, Americans are now living in different worlds—albeit not the benign ones referred to in the song. Indeed, we seem to occupy different universes.


Franklin (son of Billy) Graham says that there is only one election left to “save America” from godless secularism.

The secularists, he claimed, want to prevent people from praying anywhere other than inside a church, so that “having a service like this in a few years could be illegal.”

A pastor named Bickle has endorsed Ted Cruz, because he is confident that Cruz will “hunt down” Jews who refuse to accept the “grace” of Christ.

Recently, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign proudly announced the endorsement of Mike Bickle, the head of the controversial International House of Prayer and an extremist pastor who believes, among other things, that Oprah Winfrey is a forerunner to the Antichrist. Among Bickle’s more radical views is his prophecy that as the End Times approach, all Jews will be given a chance to accept Jesus, warning that if they do not accept “the grace” of Christ, God will then “raise up a hunter” who will kill two-thirds of them “and the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler.”

A certain Rick Wiles, identified as an “End Times Radio Host,” says Obama had Scalia killed.

Wiles said that the assassins who killed the conservative justice “deliberately left the pillow on his face as a message to everybody else: ‘Don’t mess with us, we can murder a justice and get away with it.’ And I assure you, there’s a lot of frightened officials in Washington today, deep down they know, the regime murdered a justice…. This is the way a dictatorial, fascist, police state regime takes control of a nation.”
It’s reasonable to assume that few people are as disconnected from reality as these and similarly-disturbed folks. I take comfort in the belief that there have always been unstable, frightened and angry people blaming all the world’s ills on some group or other— that we just didn’t hear about them as often before the Internet.
But how rooted in reality are the rest of us?
A recent article from the Washington Post suggests that the Right and Left see each other as very different countries—and that what both see is wildly inaccurate. Republicans think that 46% of the Democratic party is African-American; double the actual percentage of 24. They estimated the percentage of Democratic atheists at 36%–the actual percentage is 9. And they were equally off-base estimating the percentages of union members (44%) and LGBT voters (38%); those actual percentages are 11 and 6, respectively.
For their part, Democrats think that 44% of Republicans earn over 250,000/year, although the actual number is 2%.  They estimate the percentage of Republicans over the age of 65 at 44%; the actual number is 21%. They came closer with their estimates of the percentages of Southerners (44%, actually 36%) and Evangelicals (estimated 44%, actual 43%).
The remainder of the article describes the very different worldviews and reactions of voters listening to President Obama’s State of the Union Speech. It was hard to believe they were listening to the same words.
All of this leads to some pretty sobering questions.
What produces such gaps in the polity’s understanding of the world we inhabit? And more importantly, how do people who occupy such dramatically different worlds live together?


  1. Thanks Prof. How did we get here? Lets start with Rush L on the Radio and Fox Noise on TV. Keep telling the big lie for long enough and this is what we get.

  2. The soothsayers, as evidenced by the quotes in today’s blog, have a foothold in this country and through religious gerrymandering have encompassed those disconnected from reality into their growing numbers. ” And more importantly, how do people who occupy such dramatically different worlds live together?” We are seeing how they live together; it is with hatred, abuse of power, a lack of knowledge and refusal to seek knowledge and the ever-present love of and power of money. The question is how to bring reality to “there are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see”.

    We have a national joke named Donald Trump in a verbal battle with Pope Francis. We have fools accusing the president of having Scalia murdered, anti-Semitism is rearing it’s ugly head to replace racism in the presidential nominee race, we have a pudgy, long-haired religious fanatic ruling her family-owned County Clerk Office in Kentucky, we have an entire political party disrespecting our twice elected president at every turn, we have in this state a governor who protects his religion over civil and human rights of an entire group of people, the right to freedom of speech has become a call to denigrate those whose beliefs are different than theirs – with no holds barred on the language used or any truth required.

    I believe we must first get those disconnected from reality to realize that there is another world beyond their own and it is fully acceptable in the eyes of “their” God and the world at large. The staunch Republicans have hung onto their support of the name of their party; seemingly unaware that their party is no more. There has always been unstable, frightened and angry people and the Internet feeds them what they want to hear about those “others”; the privately owned media reaches those who have no computers and their combined fear tactics draws them together. Families and friends are again being torn apart by differences as during the Civil War but based on a different set of human values. Slavery abounds in this country; it has simply taken a different form but still controlled by those with the money to buy their way to power.

    The weather in my world is storm-ridden with little view or hope of seeing the sun anytime in the near future.

  3. Yep……what patmcc said. When a limited number of voices are heard they become the dominant message.

  4. Just in case someone didn’t hear, Scalia’s pillow was under his head, not on top of it. But you know, it was probably the FBI that put the pillow on his face. And the CIA came in a little later to make sure the FBI didn’t botch the job, and move the pillow under his head. If that idea is not out in the memosphere already, it will be by tonight.

  5. What kind of study asks different questions of 2 groups? Result that says 9% of Dems are Athiest/Agnostic begs the question: are the remaining 14 +/- atheists estimated in the population Republicans and Independents? Were Democrats asked the same questions?

  6. JoAnn, excellent points!

    The one Very Disappointing point in today’s blog is that only 21% of Republicans are over 65. That goes against what we hear about them being old and dying off.

    When I read a radical statement made by Franklin Graham a couple years ago I was totally disgusted that people follow him simply because of who his father is. Apparently they believe what he says must be true since Billy is his father. I have never been a follower of Billy Graham and only heard him speak on tv a couple times many years ago, but I never thought of him as a radical like I believe his son to be. Maybe I am wrong about that.

    Sheila has written before about anti-intellectualism in this country. People seem to be far too lazy to search for factual evidence of what they hear on tv or radio or read on facebook. When they hear such extreme views about how “others” are out to take away their freedoms, they never seem interested in questioning what they have been told and I find this to be very frightening for the future of our country.

    The religious radicals obtain their followers by instilling fear and hatred in people. Everything they preach goes against what Jesus taught in the Bible that they claim to use, yet people still choose to drink that poison koolaid.

    Regarding people’s opinions of President Obama – I am surrounded by tea partiers who absolutely hate him. When I ask them why they hate him they are never able to provide a reason. They just hate him! Their views surely have nothing to do with watching fauz news or listening to Limbaugh and Hannity on the radio. How can you hate someone without an actual reason to hate them?

  7. The young and middle age members of our country have been abandoning organized religion in droves to pursue living a personal spiritual life. I left organized religion after more than 50 years because I could no longer tolerate the discrimination. I was a member of a Methodist church for most of my life and left there to attend a Friends congregation. Both disappointed me.

    This exodus from organized religion has prompted the evangelical leaders to demand even more loudly that their members follow their rules and discriminate against others or they risk going to hell. I actually feel sorry for the people that believe this garbage.

  8. How can you get an honest poll anymore when most of us don’t have landlines anymore? Research needs to adjust with a communication method of poll taking that covers more people.

  9. Nancy – I am surrounded by tea partiers who absolutely hate him. When I ask them why they hate him they are never able to provide a reason. They just hate him!

    Pavlovian response works on humans not just on dogs. I am seeing and hearing a similar strain in reference to Bernie Sanders. He is a Communist, just like Castro or Stalin they will state. You cannot reason with these people.

    As far as God’s wrath against Jews by using someone to punish them, this comes from the Bible. Back in ancient times it was the Assyrians, or Pharaoh, the Romans, etc., were the instruments of punishment. Romans 13:1 > Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Psalm 148:8 > fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word! This simplistic thought process explains everything, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, etc. If good person dies under horrible circumstances, God works in mysterious ways , we are told. The other excuse is God is testing us – sort of like a supernatural ISTEP. It must kept simple or it does not work.

  10. Rapid change. Not everyone is equipped for it. Conservative = one who wants things to remain as they were. Change was the cause of the Civil War, right?

  11. Today , I took the Red pill , and found that the rabbit hole IS bottomless.
    When ever you point your finger at ” extremist , you are pointing 3 fingers back at YOURSELF, Sheila .

  12. I’m still of the opinion that conservatives were created, not born.

    Part of that of course is from memory. My family was always very interested in Republican politics and they were very informed involved people. While they were inclined to support the Republican Party in elections they also insisted on responsible effective government and were oh so proud to be Americans.

    The seeds of the Republican collapse came over the air. Archie Bunker was completely inadvertently the leader but was followed by a very purposeful Rush Limbaugh. In the beginning I was completely fooled about the origin of Rush’s words but later found that he was just another B grade actor and the script writers were the ones building a world in their image. Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Dick Cheney, and most importantly the Koch Bros who worship only their money and felt entitled to much more of ours.

    As the gospel spread and gained a mind of its own others joined the band either because they were merely easily manipulated or they saw the potential of the growing cult to serve them. TV evangelicals, the NRA, some predatory business people, fossil fuel companies.

    So now the monster’s appetite is insatiable. It is the master not has a master.

    The world laughs at us or plots against us because they realize that the old American will and organization is gone. We are more a cult than a country like the Middle East counties have devolved to.

    I find it sad more than anything else. I really did believe in the Greatest Generation and wish their greatness had continued.

    If we save ourselves it will be due to another gift from our past: democracy which is so under fire by the conservative cult.

    All I can say is live free, unafraid and informed. It’s not magic but it is effective and the only hope for the America that made me, me.

  13. Hi, everyone, new poster here! Let me place myself with a couple introductory facts. I’m a student of sociology by academic training and my most meaningful professional work has been as a micro-local journalist (neighborhood-level urban news). I’m fascinated by what makes cities work and love living in and visiting cities. And I want to join this comment thread and respond to this as-usual-excellent post because, as I see things, we DO NOT live together in any meaningful way. We have been socialized to avoid public spaces, to stay to ourselves when we are in them and our housing very effectively sorts us socially and socio-economically and we don’t often interact with our neighbors anyway as a society. There are exceptions to this rule. Challenge yourself as you go about your life this weekend and look for real, personal interactions out in the world. Ones where religion or politics matter. They’re avoided because they’re not safe. It’s sad but true, I think. I argued with Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” all the long way through reading it, but I have to admit he’s largely correct. I believe we need new ways of coming together, not to go back to old ways because I do not want to live my mother’s life, thank you. Indianapolis’s Spirit and Place Festival interests me (I don’t live in Indy) as something with the right idea.

  14. Nancy and Louie; several years ago, Oprah had a Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust as her guest. Near the end of the program; after the women talked of her losses and her survival in concentration camps, Oprah asked how she could still believe in God while living in that hell. The woman answered, “When God gave man free will, the control was taken from his hands. I believe God cries too.” Those simple words completely changed my religious beliefs; I believe there is a “higher power”, not sure what form it takes but my faith is still strong. I am simply aware that He is not going to provide for us personally or punish us with wars, disasters or disease for misbehavior. The power was taken from His hands at His behest and we, and only we, are responsible for conditions of the world today. Only we can change it or let it change us; we are the punishers and the punished, we are the victors and the losers. In the simple words of Pogo, “I have met the enemy and he is us!”

  15. The world turns. We discover amazing new things about our home, the universe, at an ever increasing pace, and apply reality thus revealed to serving our needs. Any of it can be applied to enhance society or enhance only groups of us at the expense of others. We are perfectly free to choose but nobody is excused from the consequences of their choices.

    Us more mature folks get nostalgic about our prime but progress both good and bad is a given as our memories more and more get left behind by both choice and necessity.

    It just is.

    The best we can do is live free, informed and unafraid and build the best for those who come after.

  16. Here is a link to an interesting interview of author Jane Mayer about the Koch brothers’ political influence. She states that they spend most of their funds at state and local levels, which gives them much more power to create the society they want. The Koch brothers hired a private investigator in 2011 to run a smear campaign against Jane to punish her for her 2010 book that described their history of financial influence. Fortunately, they were unable to stop her from uncovering the truth about theie tactics.

    Jane’s new book titled “Dark Money” just came out in January and I plan to buy a copy. She spent five years doing the research for this book, which gives an in-depth explanation about the influence that billionaires have on our politics and government.

  17. Welcome Connie. It’s all good to have another source of opinion and fact. Don’t be shy. Like experiments, opinions are all valuable opportunities to learn for and from all of us.

  18. Connie – welcome to this blog. I appreciate your comments from the perspective of someone trained in sociology and look forward to your future participation.

  19. I only want to say that I always use lower case letters for my name on short stories, poems, or novels. I saw a person post here with the same first name and spelled with all lower case letters. I wanted to make sure no one is confused. I am not that person. Also, I do not view the Professor as an extremist.

  20. We could all use a brush up on our arithmetic: 44% of Republicans make over $250,000 a year?! It would have to be a very tiny party, just a few Democrats turning up at the polls could easily out vote them.

  21. “As long as we keep at it, as long as we don’t get discouraged, as long as we are out there fighting the good fight not just on one day, or one month, but every single day, and every single month, I have no doubt that we’re going to live up to the promise of our founding ideals—and that all these young children who are standing in front, no matter who they are or where they come from, they’re going to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

    President Obama

  22. People who are not active in or familiar with Christian denominations often believe that they are monolithic: that Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and the dozens of other denominational groups all think like Franklin Graham and some of his ilk mentioned above, and that those people are somehow “representative”. This is not true. In fact, many of those folks are repelled by Mr. Graham. The same applies to “evangelicals”, which is a very diverse group, as are Catholics. One well known progressive evangelical is Jim Wallis, with a group called “Sojourners”, and who is probably even more liberal than many who post here. They have an excellent site, sojo.net, that welcomes you with a popup that says, “Do justice. Love mercy”. Not a bad popup.

    It’s unfortunate that Franklin Graham and the host of “radio hosts” set themselves up as somehow representative. While each of them has a following, that group is far from being the majority. If any visual applies to Christians working in the world, it would be someone helping and suffering with suffering poor people. The phenomenon of different worlds applies to Christian denominations, many of whom will be very comfortable with most of Sheila’s posts.

  23. Sheila, you lament the hate-filled bile spewed by numerous fools who show their ignorance and delude themselves into thinking they are Christians, but have no problem with Nancy calling for the death of all tea party members. My tea party sister has more love in her heart for her most obnoxious student than Nancy demonstrates. I am offended when people who claim to align with my political bent say stupid or vile things. That appears to be the difference between me and liberals. Liberals forgive or ignore the hate-filled rhetoric from “their own”.

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